There is so much cricket being played professionally and internationally at the moment that one of the International Cricket Council’s objectives to grow the game worldwide is coming to fruition. Opportunities to play on a world stage are now afforded to players who could only have dreamed about it a few years ago.
This is true for the UAE men cricketers who are playing in the DPO World ILT20. Each of the six teams have four UAE players allocated to them, of whom two must be selected for the playing 11. The experience that they gain from playing alongside some of the world’s best cricketers will be invaluable for their development.
Rohan Mustafa has been opening the batting for Desert Vipers alongside Englishman Alex Hales, watching him score 418 runs in five matches, almost twice as many as anyone else.
Mustafa is an experienced cricketer at 33 years of age and may not have that much to learn compared with Vriitya Aravind, who is 20 years old and playing for the MI Emirates along with Muhammad Waseem. The latter started brightly with scores of 71 and 40 in his first two innings but posted low scores in his next three innings. Aravind has made only one start so far.
There have been creditable bowling performances by UAE players. Akif Raja has played in all five matches for Dubai Capitals, claiming six wickets, including one with his second delivery of the tournament.
Junaid Siddique has played five matches for Sharjah Warriors, also claiming six wickets at an economical rate. However, the most eye-catching performance was by Sanchi Sharma. He has taken six wickets for the Gulf Giants, three of them coming against the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, whose number two, three and four batters were his victims, sufficient to earn him player of the match.
The DP World IT20 reached its halfway stage of the 30 round-robin matches on Jan. 24, when the Desert Vipers beat MI Emirates to join the Gulf Giants at the top of the table on eight points after five matches. The Abu Dhabi Knight Riders are rooted to the foot of the table with one point gained in a rain-abandoned match.
In South Africa, two-thirds of the SA20 competition had been completed on Jan. 24, when it took a break until Feb. 2, while the South African’s men’s team take on England’s in a three-match ODI series. The break comes with Pretoria Capitals leading the way on 23 points from seven matches, followed by Sunrisers Eastern Cape and Paarl Royals, both with 17 points from eight matches.
The opportunities provided by these tournaments are for men but, elsewhere in South Africa, the first women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup is taking place in Potchefstroom and Benoni in the north of the country. Originally scheduled for January 2021, it was delayed by COVID-19 to December 2021 and then again by the pandemic to January 2023.
Twelve teams automatically qualified and four others — UAE, Indonesia, Scotland, Rwanda — via regional qualifying groups. It is the first time that either Rwanda or Indonesia have qualified for an ICC World Cup tournament at any level, while for Scotland, UAE, Indonesia and the US, it represents first-time qualification for a women’s ICC World Cup at any level. New opportunities opened up for them.
The 16 teams were divided into four groups, playing against the other three teams in the group. After those matches, the top three teams in each group progressed to a Super Six League stage. In this, the qualifying teams from Group A played two of the qualifying teams from Group D and qualifying teams from Group B played against two of the qualifying teams from Group C. New Zealand and England have qualified from Group 2 for the semifinals, to be joined by India and Australia from Group 1.
Although the UAE reached the Super Sixes, the team was unable to progress further. Rwanda used its opportunity well, making an impressive debut in a World Cup tournament. The team beat Zimbabwe in the group stage and then caused a major upset by overcoming the West Indies in a Super Six match. Rwanda’s two spinners, Sylvia Usabyimana and Marie Tumukunde, each claimed four wickets, the latter for only four runs, to ruin their opponent’s chances of reaching the semifinals.
South Africa is also host to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, 2023, which begins on Feb. 10. All matches will be played in the south of the country, with the final at Cape Town on Feb. 26.
Ten teams will compete, divided into two groups of five, from which the top two teams will progress to the semifinals. Ireland and Bangladesh joined eight automatic qualifiers via a qualifying tournament in Sept. 2022.
If all of this is not enough, the inaugural Women’s India Premier League is set to launch in March, 2023, after a long wait. It will be comprised of five teams who will compete in a double round-robin league that leads to a play-off stage. Each squad is to comprise 18 players and a maximum of six overseas players, five of whom can be in a playing 1, but one of whom has to be from an ICC associate member.
On Jan. 25, sealed bids were opened to reveal the winners of the five franchises. These bids totalled $573 million, exceeding, on relative conversion rates, the amount paid for the men’s first IPL in 2008. The highest bid of $158 million was submitted by Adani Sportsline Ltd. for the Ahmedabad franchise, other successful bids sitting in a range of $93 million to $111 million.
In 15 years, professional cricket has spun in a quite different direction in terms of format and financial rewards, starting with men. Given that the first women’s T20 World Cup was played in 2009 and the first professional contracts were introduced in 2014, opportunities have been opened up for women in a way that seemed most unlikely at the time.